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Rights group fears ill-treatment of imprisoned Thai protesters

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] has expressed concern [press release] about the treatment of anti-government protesters detained during Thailand's latest round of political violence [JURIST news archive]. The group is chiding the Thai government for enacting an emergency decree giving Thai security forces broad power to arrest individuals without formal charges and hold them in secret detention. The decree, which lacks judicial oversight, also prevents detainees from having access to legal counsel or family members. HRW released the statement Thursday after security forces dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder] from Bangkok's main commercial district and arrested several of the group's leaders. HRW acting Asia Director Elaine Pearson [official profile] said:

This terrible crisis is no excuse for mistreating detained protesters or holding them in secret detention. Those who committed crimes should be properly charged, but all should be treated according to international human rights standards and due process of law...Secret detention sites and unaccountable officials are a recipe for human rights abuses. Those arrested should be promptly brought before a judge and charged with a criminal offense or released.
HRW labeled Thailand's emergency decree "draconian," and alleged that the isolation tactics being used by the government greatly increased the risk of "disappearances," torture, and other human rights abuses.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Friday promised an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the recent clashes between security forces and the red shirts, many of whom support ousted [JURIST report] prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], removed from power in a 2006 military coup. Abhisit discussed plans for reconciliation aimed at helping the country heal after the nearly two month-long conflict in Bangkok, which has left more than 80 dead. He pledged that due process of law would play an important role in the reconciliation, and that all people would be encouraged to participate in the democratic process. During their protests, the red shirts demanded that Abhisit resign and called for new elections. A member of Abhisit's cabinet has said, however, that new elections will not be held [CBC report] until the situation in the country had stabilized. The Thai government implemented a curfew [JURIST report] in Bangkok and other areas of the country on Wednesday in response to violence that erupted when the leader of the red shirts announced an end to the protests. The curfew remains in effect as the government tries to maintain order.

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